How to turn your research idea into a research question

Once you find a research idea following the questions suggested in previous posts, it is time to turn such idea into a research question. Here are suggested a number of steps you may follow:

1º Identify what scope or organization your research involves. After identifying a sub-branch or area of knowledge you should choose an organization or scope you want to research on. Following the example given in the previous post about the microeconomic sub-branch “unemployment”, you might be interested in the unemployment in the European Union, or in the European Union and China. Maybe you just want to research on your city or region.

2º Formulate a general focus research question. The research question is likely to change over the rest of the research process but now you just need to formulate the question that flows from your research idea. Generally, these questions are headed by an interrogative particle such as what, why or how. Choosing one or another is not trivial. The questions headed by what like “what has been the evolution of  unemployment in the European Union over last decade?” are usually descriptive researches as they consist of a description of a number of collected data.

Some authors like Philip and Pugh (2005) refrain from consider descriptive research (called by them “intelligence gathering”) as properly research although it may form part of your research project. Actually, the answer of this question is commonly the first step in the research process.

Unemployment rates of EU members as of October...

What Philip and Pugh consider research properly is usually headed by the particle “why” (also how). An example of this second question would be: “why do European northern countries register a lower unemployment rate than southern countries?” These questions go beyond descriptive research and require analysis or, in other words, they look for “explanations, relationships, comparisons, predictions, generalizations”. Therefore, the why question part of your research could lead you to work at the theoretical level (you can visit this link to understand what exactly mean theoretical level.

In short, below you can see synthetically the three components of any research question:

Interrogative particle + research idea or sub-branch + scope or organization involved = RESEARCH QUESTION

Ej.

What has been the unemployment rate in European Union throughout the last decade?

Why have northern European countries registered lower unemployment rate than southern countries?

 

References

Lewis, P., Saunders, M. N. K., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research methods for business students Pearson.

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How to come up with a research idea

Below you will find a number of questions that may help you when generating research ideas:

1º What are your strengths and interest?. Think in previous subjects throughout your graduate. Is there any subject in which your grades have pointed out? Which one have you enjoyed most? Have you ever performed a remarkable work on a specific discipline or academic area?

2º Have you checked previous years research titles? Get inspired by previous years works. Ask your professor or supervisor for them.

3º Have you discussed your ideas with somebody? Remember how “post-it office” product was invented. The interaction with workmates was a key point. Get rid of your fears and shame and talk friends and classmates. It will be helpful to shape your idea and make it feasible. On top of that, in today´s social network society there are many professional and academic networks where you will find people willing to test your ideas.

4º Have you done a preliminary literature search? After discussing with mates, professor or in forum, you might also be suggested relevant literature. You can also have a look to some of the practitioner or academic journals such as the ones you can find in the right-side column. Look up possible books or reports in your library database. Review articles are of special interest for you since they usually contain a considered review of the state of knowledge in a particular area and suggestions of further research needs. One of them could be undertaken by you. On the other hand, books might not be up to date but by contrast offer a good overview of research that has been undertaken so far.

5º Are you up to date with media? Keeping up to date with items in the news can be a very rich source of ideas

Examples of research topics used for the second week activity in order to distinguish between applied and basic research

Brainstorming and relevance trees. It is best brainstorming with a group of people, although you can do it on your own. According to Moody (1988), you should first define your problem or sort of idea you are interested in and subsequently, ask for suggestions, relating to the problem.

RELATED POSTS

Integrating your research´s idea within its discipline

10 essentials for a good research proposal

4 crucial things to bear in mind before undertaking your own research project

How to turn your research idea into a research question

How to write my research objectives

 

Reference list

Becker, H. S. (2007). Writing for social scientists: How to start and finish your thesis, book, or article University of Chicago Press.

Camino, J. R. (2011). Cómo escribir y publicar una tesis doctoralESIC Editorial.

Castells, M. (1996). The rise of the network society (Vol. 1, No. 996, pp. 1-25). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
Moody, Paul E. Decision making: Proven methods for better decisions. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983.

Saunders, M. N., Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2011). Research Methods For Business Students, 5/e. Pearson Education India.